Bookcase in Wayzata in trouble

The following letter from Bookcase owner Charlie Leonard was published earlier this week:

Dear Friends,

The Bookcase has been privileged to be a cornerstone family-run business in Wayzata for several generations. From the early days of the Case family, followed by Gail See, Peggy Burnet, and now my family, we are the oldest independent bookstore in the Twin Cities, and one of the longest-serving businesses in the city of Wayzata. We love it here, and would like nothing better than to remain an important part of the cultural and social fabric of this town for generations to come.

In many ways, the corner we occupy serves as Wayzata’s “town square.” Whether you stop in on a daily basis to grab a cup of coffee at Caribou, walk across the street for ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, or get a book signed at one of the hundreds of author events we host every year, we are arguably the social center of the community.

But we are in trouble, and now we are coming to you for help.

The Bookcase has not been a profitable business for several years now. While we knew what we were getting into when we bought the store, we couldn’t anticipate the economic events that have shaped the world around us practically since the day we took over. We believed we could turn the business around, but it is clear that the things we were looking forward to when we bought the store in 2008 (specifically the commercial redevelopment and revitalization of Wayzata) are still years into the future.

During the first two years of my ownership, we showed some modest increases in our bottom line. We were still losing money, but that loss was shrinking — albeit ever so slowly. However, since the road construction began here on Lake Street earlier this year, we have felt the rug get pulled right out from under us. Sales on any given day are down significantly from what we projected, and we are struggling to meet our obligations to our vendors, our landlord, and (most importantly), our customers.

This is not a new struggle for independent bookstores. Our numbers have dwindled from over 10,000 stores across the country twenty years ago to less than a quarter of that number today. The stores that have survived have been able to do so primarily because the communities they reside in have rallied around them, spread the word, and done whatever they could to keep their neighborhood bookstore open and thriving.

That support has taken as many different forms as there are indies left across our country, and no two survival plans have looked the same. In many cases, new investors — or even new owners — have stepped forward to help keep the business afloat during bad economic times, with the belief that things will get better. In other cases, other businesses in the community have pitched in by helping the local bookstore promote their events, as every customer that comes into our store to hear an author speak may walk down the street and have dinner or shop at another local establishment. There are countless ways to make this work — and we are interested in hearing any ideas that you may have.

But most of all, think of what you can do as an individual customer. We need you in order to survive. We need you to shop here. That is the only way we can continue to serve Wayzata.

Of course, the holiday season is just around the corner, and no matter what happens we are thrilled and excited to be able to serve our customers once again this season. Rest assured, all orders that you place for holiday gifts will be filled.

Over the last few years we have seen a number of long-time Wayzata businesses either close or relocate. The very identity of our town is changing drastically overnight, and soon we will be almost unrecognizable. We really are sincere in wanting your thoughts and ideas on how we can make this work. I welcome your emails, your phone calls, and your personal visits to the store at any time.

Please help us keep The Bookcase an important part of our community.

Charlie Leonard
(952) 473-8341
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